East Dunbartonshire – Building relationships with councils to promote Fairtrade

After achieving Fairtrade status, developing relationships with local authorities can be challenging. East Dunbartonshire’s Fairtrade Group knows.

The group have been working on their partnership with the local council since the area became one of Scotland’s first Fairtrade Zones in October 2007.

They say: ‘We initially met with the leader of the council and council officers and explained the main ethos of Fairtrade to them, our local action and what they would gain from collaborating with the steering group’.

The council passed the required resolution to achieve Fairtrade Zone status. But the group wanted to increase their commitment so that they could make an even bigger impact through their campaigning.

Their hard work has paid off. East Dunbartonshire council considers that ‘council support is a primary aspect of being a Fairtrade Zone’. They have been contributing to local Fairtrade activities and renewed their commitment in November 2016, when they passed a resolution supporting Fair Trade locally.

The council appointed a representative to take part in the Fairtrade Group’s work, attending meetings and liaising with council departments on their behalf.

The group also works with the council on procurement, with the resolution stating that the council would ‘implement Fair Trade through [their] procurement processes and those of [their] suppliers wherever possible’.

The Fairtrade Group seized this opportunity to ask the council to include two new companies on the list of suppliers: Greencity Wholefoods and JTS, based in Glasgow.

Thanks to its new collaboration with JTS, the council is able to provide a Fairtrade menu in each of East Dunbartonshire’s school canteens twice a year – one of them for Fairtrade Fortnight. Meanwhile, school canteens serve Fairtrade bananas and fruit juices throughout the year.

Another benefit is the twice-yearly meetings the Fairtrade Group organises with teachers, which wouldn’t be possible without the council’s help. These meetings allow the group to provide training, including advice and information on learning about Fairtrade to raise awareness. At the end of the session, participants can subscribe to a mailing list that allows them to access the minutes of the meetings. The council sends an email to every head teacher in East Dunbartonshire to let them know about the training session. They also provide a room to meet.

Even though the council’s commitment has been constant, support has significantly diminished since 2014, when budget cuts were decided. Nonetheless, the Fairtrade Group learnt to adapt. They say: ‘We try to work with the council in ways that do not cost any money but have great value for us. For example, they can send emails on our behalf, or share Fairtrade information on their website and social media.’

The group adds: ‘Every time there’s a new Councillor, we meet with her/him and explain what we do. They are always very enthusiastic.’

Useful links:

Read about fair trade on the East Dunbartonshire council website

The East Dunbartonshire Fairtrade Facebook group